iEscaped (Viva Las Vegas, Abandoned, Space)

Room(s) visited Viva Las Vegas, Abandoned, Space
Decor The decor is done well for a 45 minute place, and matches the theme. It’s up there with their neighbour AT Escape.
Theming Good. The puzzles often at least loosely match the theme
Puzzle Design Mediocre. A bit of a hit-or-miss
Customer Service Good
Overall I’m undecided as to whether I want to go back. It’s a bit of a toss-up.

iEscaped
5927 Yonge Street, Suite 205
Toronto, ON M2M 3V7
Cross Street: Cummer Ave. and Yonge St.
Rooms: 4
Group Size: Viva Las Vegas (2-6), Space (2-6), Defuse (2-6), Abandoned (6-12)
Game Time: 45 minutes
Price: $25.00/person Weekends ($5 weekday discount, $5 discount with Facebook like and check-in)
Site: http://www.iescaped.com/
Phone Number: 416-519-8096

The background of the Viva Las Vegas room is that you and your team are perpetrating a crime of opportunity – A fire has started in a casino and you and your friends have decided to try to rob the casino’s vault.  In terms of room decor and general theming, the room does deliver on what it’s supposed to. The room doesn’t actually seem like a real casino, but the lighting and music in the room matches the exaggerated idea of a casino (think Casino Night Zone from Sonic 2). In terms of puzzle design, the game is mostly fine. There’s an irreversible puzzle in there, which I’m never a fan of. If something shouldn’t be moved or the puzzle is wrecked, it’s the room designer’s job to make sure it doesn’t move (or at least provide means to obtain the original configuration). Overall, this iteration of the Viva Las Vegas I did was decent. I thought the difficulty and the length of the game was appropriate for a 45 minute place.

We did the Abandoned room next. The theme is of a split-room design, and my team and I had a very bad time. I want to preface the rest of this blurb by saying this experience is unrepresentative of what you might experience there, as I’m sure they’ve made lots of changes since. I’m still going to write my experience, because it’s what happened, and it gives me a an opportunity to talk about something I think iEscaped (and other places) are doing wrong.
In terms of trying to match the puzzles and decor to the theme, the Abandoned room does its job. The theme is that you and your team are in an abandoned infirmary, and it definitely looks the part. The overall design of the puzzles was a mess. The individual puzzles were okay, but the room in its entirety was way too much. There were probably at least 100+ items in the rooms, and too many puzzles for a 45 minute room (I think around 20, some composed of other puzzles, and many which could not be started on right away). There were instances where we solved puzzles, but the answers had no place to go. My biggest gripe though, is concerning a unique aspect iEscaped had setup for their split-team game. I’m not going to divulge what it is, but it was different from other split-team games, and could have been used in an interesting fashion (but wasn’t). I could go on (and did in an email to the proprietors).

So the game had issues with it, but what’s got me so peeved? Well, I think it’s an issue that many escape facilities have – insufficient/improper testing. In fact, iEscaped isn’t even the worst offender, but they’re unlucky enough that I feel like writing about it here. The way I see it, there is trust and assumptions made when a player goes to an escape facility. The facilities trust that players aren’t going to do their rooms and post spoilers about it everywhere (for example). On the other hand, players can’t see a game beforehand, so they trust that the facility has put work into their game. They’ve made sure the game is fair, and it makes sense, and it’s fun. The version of Abandoned I did would probably have run approximately an hour and a half (at a 45 minute facility no less). Escape rooms are paid in advance of the actual playing of the games, so I left feeling a little ripped off. Despite my cold hard ruthless facade I present on this blog, I’m friendly enough to try to help facilities out. I gave input in person right after finishing,  and in an email afterwards. However, my attitude to this is that feedback is not a right. Players are not here to do your job for you. I do believe that escape rooms are an ongoing process and that tweaks should be made, but if you’re going to take money for a room, your room better be somewhere within a stone’s throw of complete. If your game isn’t done, say so. Say it’s a beta test, so you leave it for players to decide whether they want to experience a potentially incomplete experience.

With that loss of trust, several members of my team wrote this place off completely. It wasn’t until a few months later in a bout of boredom that a friend (not part of the original team) and I did the Space room. Once again, the decor was nice. The room itself isn’t very big, and it doesn’t really match the background narrative, but it does feel generically Space-like. The story is that you crash land on a mysterious planet. Your shuttle is beyond repair, but you coincidentally come across a deserted space shuttle, which you have to use to return to Earth. What a strange narrative. It’s not a complaint about the room, but I feel like there was a missed opportunity that they didn’t build a game about crashing and repairing your own shuttle.
The game itself is not very long, nor hard. The best term to describe the room is ‘entry-level’. I have no significant complaints one way or another. I suspect that young children might appreciate some aspects of the room.

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